07-08 / 062018

 Report on the Sixth Research Seminar

Rome, École Française de Rome, 7 June 2018

On Thursday 7 June 2018, the sixth PerformArt seminar was held at the École française de Rome, dedicated to the themeEspressioni del pubblico e privato nelle arti performative della Roma barocca and organised by Aldo Roma.

A welcome by Fabrice Jesné and Anne-Madeleine Goulet were followed by an introduction from Aldo Roma who outlined the aims of the seminar, namely to examine the meaning of the terms public and private in the context of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century performances in Rome, to better understand their nature, defining characteristics and even contradictions, to reflect on perceptions of the two categories by both women and men of the time, and to analyse the various ways in which the private was made public.

Asmanifestexpressions of culture, the performing arts usually involve apublicdimension. Even academies, palace theatre or ‘secret’ comedies had a public aspect, though they were defined as ‘private events’. Likewise, court and impresarial theatres should not be considered an exception to this point of view. The concepts of ‘public’ and ‘private’ also form part of a context linked to the arena of individual representation and self-representation in the society of the time. As Guy Spielmann explains in hisLe mariage sous l’Ancien Régime entre fiction dramatique et réalité, the nobility of the time felt a constant need to ‘publicise the private’. In addition to the two terms, there is also the term ‘semi-public’, of which Aldo Roma has gleaned several examples relating to academies and‘semi-public conclusions’of the Collegio Nazareno, that is academic disputes between students in the presence of internal teachers and external commissioners, whose presence made the event ‘semi-public’. 

Aldo Roma’s introduction was followed by papers given by four scholars from the PerformArt team.

The first by Marco Cavietti, entitled Documenti di famiglia e ritratto pubblico: la formazione dell’archivio come processo identitario, focused on the perception of ‘public’ and ‘private’ through the archival sources produced and preserved by noble families in Rome between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as well as the idea of the archive as the outcome of the family’s activities but above all a means to transmit their legacy. He illustrated the difference between a public document (that is to say one issued by a public institution, and formal/official in nature), a private document (informal testimony to the activity of a person, a group or a private institution), and semi-public documents, issued by minor authorities with a certain, albeit limited, official status (cf. Pratesi,Genesi e forme del documento medievale); hence the difference between private aristocratic archives (still in the possession of families, such as the Aldobrandini Archive) and public archives (ones that have been transferred to public institutions by donation or purchase, such as the collections of the Archivio Segreto Vaticano or the Biblioteca Vaticana). In recent years, archival studies have focused on systems for managing and organising archives as instruments for controlling power and memory. After reflections on the concept of ‘family archive’, containing the documentation produced by a network of officials and persons involved with management of the family’s finances and property, while at the same time providing a means of protecting family property and assets to be passed on to heirs, Marco Cavietti described the content of the archives (which preserve evidence of asset possessions – inheritance, family trees, contracts, privileges etc. – family history – letters, diaries, memories – and above all accounting documents – receipts, ledgers, payrolls, etc), and the physical space given over to archives in the palaces (where the documents were laid out, bound and preserved, preferably on the ground floor where goods and craftsmen arrived with their accounts). In addition to defending the family’s heritage, the family archives were fundamental in defining its membership of a given social class. Marco Cavietti concluded his speech with the eloquent words of Eugenio Casanova,Archivistica: ‘the have-nots, who did not count in society as persons in their own right, sadly do not have their own archives; just as anyone living hand-to-mouth, whether by constraint or choice, never had archives, nor will. But he who by his own virtue climbs the social ladder and gives rise to a family in the true sense of the word, he who becomes someone and leaves a certain mark in any branch of social activity of society and the world in its midst […]’.

Valeria De Lucca’s paper, entitledMecenatismo e performance come affermazioni di identità tra pubblico e privato negli anni romani di Maria Mancini Colonna (1661-1672)gave an overview of Maria Mancini’s private and public sphere; Mancini was constantly in the limelight, with public attention hungry for gossip ranging from unwholesome subjects such as her sexual relationship with Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and her allegedly libertine behaviour, to her musical and theatrical patronage, through to the public celebrations of the carnival.Many of theAvvisi, memories of the time and the forged autobiography of 1676 attempted to manipulate and tarnish her private image; her patronage and desire for expression of her creativity were the main targets of criticism here. Maria Mancini, of whom it was not known even ‘whether she was Italian or French’, replied to these attacks in her autobiography of 1677, in which she condemned those who took the liberty of slandering her. This is an important story in women’s literature, that of a woman who faced her critics head-on. Maria Mancini is a complex case of a woman who sought to protect her right to enter the public domain. Finally, Valeria De Lucca illustrated several masquerades and carnival parades organised by Mancini (1665-68), which give ample food for thought about her character. Among these was the 1668 Carro dei Pianeti, which caused a sensation, ‘gran ciarle(gossip) since it had women on board (women never paraded in masks), and scantily clad at that. In 1669 there was the Masquerade of Clorinda chariot, in which Maria Mancini played an active role as Clorinda. In Ulysses’ chariot she dressed up as Circe, the seductress and siren sorceress, characteristics that were in turn attributed to her. Through patronage, Maria Mancini found a way to encourage reflection on the role of women in society and their position caught between public and private.


Cristina Fernandes’paper, Espressioni del pubblico e del privato nel mecenatismo musicale degli ambasciatori portoghesi a Roma nel primo Settecento,focused on Alessandro Scarlatti’s musical fableLa virtù negl’amori, commissioned by the Portuguese ambassador to the Holy See, André de Melo e Castro, to celebrate the formalpossesso of Pope Innocent XIII (1721), initially conceived for a more intimate dimension (the ambassador’s hall) and later to be performed in a ‘larger place’, that is the Teatro Capranica, bringing it to the attention of a wider public. The composition thus moved from private to public, bestowing greater visibility on the Portuguese crown in Rome. The change of physical location also led to a different sort of interaction between performers and audience. The unpublished documents to which Cristina Fernandes referred for this performance and other events are held in the Biblioteca Ajuda in Lisbon. From her reflections on this composition, Cristina Fernandes drew out the ambivalence and blurred boundaries between the private and public spheres of the time. She also compared it with other events promoted by Portuguese ambassadors in various places such as palaces, the national church and public city spaces. The image that the Portuguese crown sought to portray played a crucial role, as witnessed by its solemn staged entrances to Rome and the cavalcade of the Portuguese ambassadors, frequently recounted in the chronicles of the time. A different model and setting for musical performance was that forLa Tigrena (1724) by Francesco Gasparini, a pastoral tale commissioned by André de Melo e Castro to mark the birth of Alessandro, son of John V of Portugal. La Tigrena was performed in a ‘mobile theatre’, built for the occasion in the embassy building, namely Palazzo Sforza Cesarini. Although it was a ‘private’ event, the intention was to celebrate the kingdom of Portugal, thus giving it all the characteristics of a public occasion. More straightforwardly private practices can be found in a 1724 copy account for songs such as ‘La Chitarra Scordata’, dances, contradances and minuets for informal use.

José Maria Domínguez’s final paper, Pubblicità della musica e segreti “in piazza” a Roma tra Sei e Settecento, focused on the meanings of ‘public’, ‘private’ and ‘secret’ through documents of musical relevance. The first two terms often have no clear boundaries, and the last one does not necessarily mean the same thing as ‘hidden’. To explain this, José Maria Domínguez illustrated several documentary testimonies about publicity strategies, including the Diario Bolognetti (1693) of the Archivio Segreto Vaticano, which reported on 7 January 1695: ‘Il medesimo giorno si viddero affisse stampate per le cantonate più pubbliche di Roma due notificationi’, one about a puppet theatre, the other the operaGiustino. Though the news of the announcement also appears in other years, the use of the term ‘public’ appears only in this case. An example of fluidity between ‘public’ and ‘private’ comes from another document related to Stampiglia-Bononcini’sXerse. Bolognetti’s diary again tells us that the ambassador’s wife wished to watch the rehearsal with her ladies-in-waiting. The impresario of the Teatro Tordinona, Marcello De Rosis, replied that she would be welcome at the theatre. But the displeased ambassador called all the musicians to the palace, forbidding De Rosis to enter: ‘fu provata l’opera alla meglio che si poté, mancando un sol musico, e Marcello non entrò’. Finally, a last example of publicity strategies comes from a letter from Ottoboni to his agent in Naples on 15 April 1702, in which he declared that he would send Corelli against his will to the viceroy Coccogliudo, who wanted ‘his splendour to be known to the whole of Italy’. In the second part of the paper, José Maria Domínguez focused on the meanings of ‘private’ and ‘secret’. The word secreto, which is found 15 times in the Bolognetti Diary (secretamente, con secreto concertato), has little to do with the non-public or hidden, ‘unspeakable matters’, since it was clearly linked to events that are commented on.

The papers were followed by comments from two discussants, Mette Birkendal Bruun of the University of Copenhagen and Guy Spielmann of Georgetown University, Washington, DC.

Mette Birkendal Bruun gave a bird’s-eye view of the papers, outlining questions for each of the scholars that could broaden understanding of their topic.  Guy Spielmann meanwhile suggested a view of different ‘layers of the onion’ to articulate the idea of public and private, positing that this dichotomy might be transcended by using substitutes for the term ‘private’: the ‘universal’ (all of humanity, without communication); the sphere of communication, divided into ‘public’ (an entire social body), ‘social’ (social groups with shared interests), ‘particular’ (family or close relations), ‘intimate’ (individual realm), ‘individual’. These general considerations were followed by questions from the floor and answers from the researchers.


Alexandra Nigito



Report on visit to the Collegio Nazareno

The day ended with a visit to the historical seat of the Collegio Nazareno, in the heart of Rome, between Piazza di Spagna and the Trevi Fountain, where the college’s archive is still held. The difference of this guided tour from previous ones lay in the opportunity to view one of the venues for theatre and other performance events of the time whilst also visiting the archive where Aldo Roma and Marco Cavietti are currently carrying out their research for the PerformArt project. The tour was accompanied by explanations from Aldo and Marco, who have been reconstructing episodes of the institution’s history through reproductions of significant documents from the archive and period photos.


After a welcome from Frate Gerardo Vicente Leyva Bohórquez of the Order of Scolopian Fathers, director of the archives, Aldo recalled the circumstances around the foundation of the Collegio Nazareno, paying particular attention to the different locations occupied by the college before it moved to its current premises. The college was founded thanks to a bequest from Cardinal Michelangelo Tonti, who died in 1622. After several moves, in 1689 the college found its definitive seat in the Palazzo Tonti alla Chivica del Bufalo. The courtyard of the palace, which still houses some of the ancient statues that belonged to the college, was used in the twentieth century as a gym for children who attended the school (as shown by some period photos), while the adjacent garden was demolished at the end of the nineteenth century in order to to expand the building. The block towards the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte housed the Mineralogical Museum (now donated to Sapienza University of Rome) and the college library.


The visit continued in the oldest part of the palace, in the rooms on the ground floor – which used to be the ground-floor gallery – which still preserve the ornate ceilings decorated with sixteenth-century grotesques, and the sculpture of Caesar donated by Cardinal Albani (1692-1779) to the college and previously positioned in te centre of the courtyard, where the sculpture of San Giuseppe Calasanzio has stood since the 1960s). The visit then progressed to the first floor and the gallery that leads to the grand salon, which preserves many features of its eighteenth-century decor. We then moved on to the wing of the palace currently in use by the community of Scolopian Fathers, where the paintings previously exhibited in the gallery and the salon were recently rehung. Among them, those associated with the Accademia degli Incolti proved particularly interesting for our studies, including the painting showing the academy’s coat of arms and that showing the work of the poet and academic librettist Silvio Stampiglia (1664-1725). Equally significant is the small putto(Cupid) painted by Giovan Battista Gaulli known as Baciccia, a pupil of the college, and the panel of Our Lady of Loreto, an effigy of the Accademia Lauretana whose meetings were held at the Nazareno. This part of the visit ended in the current chapel of the palace, completed at the end of the nineteenth century, where the provincial head of the Scolopi, Father Ugo Barani, joined the group and took the time to describe the cycle of paintings showing episodes from the life of St Joseph Calasanzio and the construction of the chapel ordered by Pope Pius IX, also a pupil of the Nazareno.


During the last part of the visit, Aldo and Marco showed us some significant archival documents, including the ledger for the years 1719-1796 showing a change (from the Sacra Rota to the cardinal vicar) in the supervision of the institution and document management, a printed notice for a philosophical dispute of 1787, and some handwritten invitations with the initials of the college ‘C N’ dating from the eighteenth century and which were distributed at theatre performances. After an opportunity to view and handle these documents for themselves, the group visited the place where the   library collection is kept, with its important heritage dating especially from the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, as well as the college archive which Aldo and Marco are in the process of reorganising and inventorying.

Having thanked Frate Gerardo for the welcome, the group left the building, the imposing entrance door closed behind us, and after this plunge into the waters of history we found ourselves, enriched with new knowledge, back in everyday Rome.



Report on the database workshop

Rome, École Française de Rome, 8 June 2018



Michela Berti explained the decision to create a thesaurus for PerformArt using the Nuovo Soggettarioas a basis. This exchange will be possible thanks to the presence of Manuela Grillo (co-creator of the Nuovo Soggettario), who joined the PerformArt team during the second trimester of 2018.

Manuela Grillo, a specialist in indexing ancient documents, then presented a paper entitledVantaggi di un thesaurus per PerformArt, in which she explained the use of ISO standards in the construction of the thesaurus, hierarchical relationships (BT, NT, RT), node labels and their utility. She stressed the importance of referring to existing indexing systems (such as the Nuovo Soggettario) rather than inventing new methods that are likely to be incompatible with the standards in use. She also pointed out that current bibliographical practice in Italy does not yet have wide experience of indexing ancient material, and emphasised the advantages of the thesaurus as a means of enhancing precision in research and broadening its horizons.


Michela Berti and Marco Cavietti presented a paper entitledThesaurus PerformArt: stato dei lavori ed esempi di ricerca, in which they described the current state of construction of the thesaurus for the database. Researchers were invited to consult it and get in touch with those responsible to suggest addition of terms not yet included, if they are essential for indexing. At the end of the presentation, the team was invited to take part in a practical exercise of indexing documents in the database.


Michela Berti presented the new features of the event table, which now contains 3 descriptors that refer to 3 types of event:

– General history

– History of families in Rome

– Cultural life





Michela Berti presented new features on the database:

– Addition of the URL field in the Document records: ability to insert links to external sites to refer to other documents (such as scanned scores and/or libretti)

– Simple search: this works even if a single word is entered, regardless of its position in the title


Huub Van Der Linden presented new features of the Historical Person category:

– A field has been added for entering the VIAF ID (an 8-digit number). The VIAF connects the various known identifiers (e.g. in foreign languages) referring to the same person.

– Noble titles: there is now a link. Indication of the title brings up the ‘subtype’ of the title appear. E.g.: title ‘prince’, subtype will be ‘princedom’

– Additions and corrections can be made directly to links


Barbara Nestola presented new features of the Libretto category:

– Deletion of two fields: ‘brief description of source’ and ‘dance description’

– Redefined titles of two fields: ‘physical description of source’ has become ‘description of source’ (and will include both the physical characteristics and the content note); ‘titles of dances and musical forms’ has become ‘titles and descriptions of dances’ and contains both the titles of dances and, where present, the description of performance of the above.


Barbara Nestola